Money Diary #1: A Week of Being Unemployed in Singapore

Welcome to the first of Money Diaries, where contributors give you a peek into not just their spendings but also their lives over a seven-day period. Reading a diary is one pretty good way of living vicariously through another person and we hope you’re in for the ride.

Here, we have an ex-auditor, who had left her job in hopes of an exciting career switch. This diary details her trip to Johor Bahru as well as her innermost thoughts about unemployment, furthering her studies and making her parents proud.

Age: 24

Gender: Female

Education: NTU Bachelor of Accountancy

Occupation: Unemployed

Industry: Formerly in audit

Former Salary: $3,250/month + ~1.4x annual bonus

Location: Singapore

Monthly Expenses

Student Loans: $0 

Phone Bill: $0 (Paid by parents…oops)

Transport: $0 (Linked to my mom’s bank account…oops)

Spotify Premium: $15.13/month for 6 people (family plan), i.e $2.52/month

Netflix: $16.98/month for 4 people (family plan), i.e $4.25/month

Gym: $136 Fitness First membership

Savings: I split my savings into two accounts— maxing out a JumpStart account with Standard Chartered and putting the remaining into my DBS Multiplier account. The rate offered by Standard Chartered is 2%, while the rate offered by DBS varies with qualifying transactions, and could go up to 2% with salary, investments and credit card expenditure. Since I am unemployed, the interest rate is at a meagre 0.05%.

Credit cards: I used the DBS Live Fresh credit card which offers a high cash back rate but only with a minimum spending of $600, so I switched over to the Standard Chartered’s Unlimited card. There is no minimum spending and it provides a higher cash back rate than the LiveFresh, allowing me to maximise my cash back. As someone who doesn’t actively invest, the least I can do is maximise these forms of passive income, however minimal they might be.

Insurance: $2,799 annually ($233.25 per month) for AXA death/critical illness plan + $23/month for AXA Vitality plan


Daily Log

Day 1 of Log, Day 80 of Unemployment

9.49am: Woke up with the sunlight shining directly onto my face. I had purposely left my curtains open the night before in an attempt to wake up earlier. I was sleeping at 3am every night and had hoped that waking up earlier would help. Used my phone in bed for about half an hour before falling asleep.

10.56am: Woke up (again). Evidently, opening my curtains was not very useful. Regretted staying in bed because I wanted to go to the gym early. Water supply was cut from my house because of repair works so I made plans to meet my friend, B, and hang out at her place. 

12.12pm: Headed out after getting annoyed about spending 20 minutes searching for an item that my dad misplaced. Was very excited because B’s parents were okay with me coming over. We were kinda banned from meeting each other because hanging out caused us to be “less focused” on our job searches (she’s unemployed too). Couldn’t wait to finally finish Resident Evil 5 on her PS4. We’ve been stuck on the same game for way too long due to our ban. 

12.18pm: My excitement was short-lived since her mom came home. I could have gone to her house anyway but we wouldn’t have been able to game since her mom initiated the ban. We decided to head to her grandma’s place instead to complete some audio recordings in a quieter place to make some moolah for a freelance job. 

1.25pm: Had a bowl of prawn noodles for lunch and their prawns were literally the size of my toe. Still, the noodles were great and the stall owner was really nice. She told us that we’re still young and it’s okay to spend time searching for jobs since what’s most important is that we do what we like. $4

2.52pm: At her grandma’s house, we waited until the renovation noise quietened down before we could finally start recording. We were doing so well for about five minutes until the neighbors started having a conversation right outside at the corridor, and our mics were picking up their voices. Another failed recording made me annoyed. Also, I saw a huge piece of shit floating in the toilet bowl because someone forgot to flush. Hadn’t seen anyone else’s poop other than mine in a long while.

5.15pm: Left B’s grandma’s house and headed to the gym at Junction 10. Accidentally took a longer route and reached only at 6pm so I had about an hour to workout before meeting my family for dinner. Trying out a new routine a friend designed for me for arms day, let’s go!

7.20pm: My arms got DESTROYED.

9.04pm: Reached home after a very salty dinner at AOne with my family and bugged my dad to find the missing item. He found it within a minute of searching since he was the one who put it there.

Daily Total: $4

Day 2 of Log, Day 81 of Unemployment

9.05am: Wow. Earliest I’ve been up in weeks. I guess it’s the guilt, which gets more and more overwhelming each day. Got rejected for a job that I really wanted a few days back, and it seems like I’m pretty affected by it. B’s out today and my boyfriend, A, is overseas, so I’ll have to be alone at home. :( Had cereal and honey lemon for breakfast, and surfed YouTube while hand sewing a pair of shorts that became too loose at the waist. Putting off the job search for now because it always makes me feel bad about myself. 

12.04pm: Got a text from a friend, M, to have lunch impromptu. Yay. Met him at Pizza Hut and chatted for hours about his small business and small drama with his booth buddy. We both got the student meal, which included a pan pizza and free flow soft drinks— this was our third time eating here together because of how cheap the meal was. Super worth it :D I also whined about my unemployment and then bought Encik Tan’s chicken cutlet rice for my brother’s lunch. $6.95 + $4.50

2.28pm: Saw a shop selling 50 pieces of surgical masks for $45. Being business students, M and I were shookt by the shop owner’s audacity to sell it at such a price. I was already irked by the $19.90 I had to pay for a box of 50 pieces a few weeks ago. Headed home to hopefully find some jobs of interest to apply for, but not before sewing my shorts, of course.

6.58pm: Decided to work out at home and did a 30-minutes HIIT with Emi Wong, which was surprisingly easy. 

1.15am: The guilt is really strong today. Perhaps because I did nothing productive and added zero value to our household by being a bum. Now I’m even feeling shitty about myself for not being able to listen to my parents about sleeping early. I must look like such a disappointment in their eyes and can’t imagine how much they sigh when they think about me. Honestly, I just want to make them proud. I know they would be proud of me if I’m happy with a job I love. Tonight is one of those nights where I wish I knew what I wanted to do with my life. 🥺

Daily Total: $11.45

Day 3 of Log, Day 82 of Unemployment

8.50am: Woken up by the sunlight (or subconscious guilt), and fell asleep again (maybe not that guilty after all) until my alarm rang at 10am for my IPL session at Westgate.

11.15am: The outlet was having a promotion of $1314 (the number means “forever” in Chinese since this promotion was only available in Feb, the month of love) for 12 sessions. It’s usually hella pricey, so this was a pretty good deal. I told the girl that I would consider because I’m currently unemployed. She showed zero signs of pity and immediately told me that they accept four payments of $300+. I was tempted as I absolutely hate shaving and pubes but ultimately decided against it. Being unemployed for 2 months had already put a huge strain on my finances and it would have been immature to spend recklessly.

11.55am: Met B for lunch at Genki Sushi and signed up for a membership just to get a first-time discount of 5%. Hey, every dollar counts now. Had chawanmushi and plain udon with green tea. For a meal with no meat, it wasn’t really a good deal. Oh well. $9.30

12.58pm: Realized it’s been almost three months of unemployment. The first half was great; I enjoyed the freedom a lot. But towards the second month, I started to feel like shit about not getting any responses. I joked about how it was because I was picky and declared I would stop being picky by the third month, which was next week. Ha. Bought a set of nasi lemak at Lee Wee & Brothers for my brother’s lunch. $4.80

1.42pm: We got on the bus back to my place and sat at the front on the upper deck because it was a long bus ride. I remember being excited to sit here as a kid, and I saw it in the kids beside us. I could feel them excitedly staring out at the views, then clumsily standing up to press the bell to get off, presumably to get home after school. I envied their innocence and how they were probably thinking of simple things like going back home to use the computer, perhaps tuition later… nothing like what’s going through my head as an adult. Or pre-adult. I missed being a kid, having no worries and getting excited over the smallest things. Now, I worry about the smallest things.

5.45pm: Recorded and sent the audio to the liaison for our freelance recording job. Hope our work gets accepted, jeez…

8pm: Headed home after dinner at my grandma’s place. I’ve been eating at home a lot more because unemployment has made me more anti-social for two reasons: I don’t want to spend money and everyone I meet asks me about my job search when I’m not exactly keen on sharing. Sigh. 

8.20pm: My mom bought a madeleine mix after trying out samples near her workplace. Since we already had eggs, milk and lemon, all we needed was unsalted butter. We headed to Cold Storage to grab a pack.

8.38pm: On the way there, my mom casually asked me to apply for Masters and I told her that her sister had encouraged me to sign up for a MSc Business Analytics course in NTU. I expressed concern over the cost of the course ($62,000 over 3 trimesters, NTU alumni would be entitled to a 10% grant). She told me not to worry about the money as she was getting her CPF soon. She said it would be good for me since I hated my degree and I should just try since it wasn’t easy to get anyway. I agreed half-heartedly as I was unsure whether I wanted to start a course in another field that I wasn’t 100% interested in.

8.45pm: We reached home and my mom mentioned the MSc course to my dad, who was dismayed by the cost and preferred for me to get a MBA instead. I didn’t want to decide then so I just assured them I’d check both courses out and I started baking! It felt good to be doing something productive.

9.39pm: The madeleines turned out really well and my mom was really happy. She proceeded to take pictures of the madeleines and me mixing the batter to send to a group chat with her colleagues. I knew she wanted to show off but it was still nice to see her proud of me (kinda) in some way. Sometimes I feel like a trophy daughter and that she felt like her success came from how pretty, smart, slim or funny I was. She would always want me to look pretty and buy me clothes or jewelry I don’t need. She would express sadness when I gained weight and always talked too much about my accounting degree and company to other people. Maybe that’s why I’ve been feeling guilty about unemployment. I’ve been letting her down despite everything she has provided me with. Now the only thing she has to say about me is that I hate my degree and that I quit without a job. Sigh. 

Daily Total: $14.10

Day 4 of Log, Day 83 of Unemployment

9.30am: Woke up from a deep sleep to a text from my friends, who were asking to play mahjong at night. I’d been losing $10+ every round the past couple of times I’d played, but it would be good to have some activity, so I didn’t mind. Stayed in bed until 10.30am before getting ready to head out. I was finally going to Johor Bahru to fix my nails as I didn’t want to go for interviews (if any…) with gross half-peeled nails.

11.30am: I heated up a few madeleines for breakfast and for my cousin. I burnt all of them because I was lazy to set the timer… Cool.

11.36am: Dipped into my ang pao stash for the trip. I took the ang pao that I was sure had at least one $50 note: my mom’s. Disclaimer: I hate opening ang paos… makes me feel guilty for using money people gave me… I opened it and was shocked that there was $200 in it. She normally gives me $100. I opened my dad’s and he gave me $180 when he normally gives me $50. I wondered if it’s because of my unemployment and felt extremely bad. And also sad. :( I contemplated asking my mom why. I was definitely not ready to launch into a conversation regarding my job search in case it was because of my unemployment, but I should also thank them for the amount. Hmm…

1.23pm: My cousin and I were overjoyed to see an empty customs and clearing it took less than three minutes. This was a rarity now commonplace, (no) thanks to the coronavirus. I changed SGD100 to RM300.50 and immediately bought a large honey green tea with ai yu from Gong Cha which cost me RM10.50 (SGD 3.50). I caved in easily as the upsize cost me only an extra RM1 (SGD0.33). In Singapore, the same drink would have set me back at least SGD5. We couldn’t decide on lunch, so we cabbed down to KSL for RM6 (SGD2) to do our nails for the last time in a loooong while. RM16.50 (SGD5.50)

1.46pm: Walked around for awhile more and decided on KFC for lunch, and bought a popcorn chicken, a twister and cheese fries. RM20.40 (SGD~7) 

2.55pm: We went to the nail parlor we had patronized the previous round as they provided free return soak-off services. I wanted something less bright and more neutral to seem more mature during interviews. But somehow, after a loooong time of deliberating, I ended up deciding on a dark earthy red with a pink glitter on one finger of each hand. So much for maturity. RM116 (SGD39)

4.45pm: Went to put a screen protector on the back of my iPhone 11. It was a silicon film instead of tempered glass. The finish was pretty, so I hope it works. RM25 (SGD8)

5.18pm: Ended up in a store that was closing down and was having a 50% sale, I bought socks and a belt for RM9.90 (SGD3.30) while my cousin bought 6 pairs. I’m a sucker for sales. We walked out a little more to buy 马蹄酥 and 豆沙饼 for our family from a supposedly famous brand called 明安. 2 packs of 马蹄酥, a box of 豆沙饼 and a piece of 叉烧酥 cost me about RM34 (SGD11) and I was relieved by the price as I expected it to be higher. We were done with KSL and grabbed back to City Square for RM7 (SGD2). RM50.90 (SGD16.30)

5.43pm: At City Square, my cousin bought her second cup of drink, Boost. I didn’t want to take in more sugar/spend more money than I already had, so I resisted the temptation. We shared MacDonalds’ seasonal Cheesecake Cone for RM1.95 (SGD0.65). I went to Watsons and Sasa to grab a lipstick that was on sale for RM18.45 (SGD6.15) and a set of 2 nail files for RM7.90 (SGD2.60). Also, I forgot to apply my moisturizer this morning and my skin was tightening from dryness so I secretly took a pump of their skincare samples and quickly applied it to the area around my mouth. Samples rock. Drugstores here were a lot cheaper than in Singapore, and I loved shopping here. RM28.30 (SGD9.40)

5.55pm: Noticed my cousin’s growing boredom and brought her to Shihlin Chicken to get our first ever sausage egg crepe. RM7.90 (SGD2.60)

7.30pm: We couldn’t decide what to eat again, and decided on a savoury crepe from Crepe2U, an unassuming franchised stall that we both had been intrigued by the past few times we came but never got about eating. One chicken ham crepe later, we understood why there was never a queue. RM7.50 (SGD2.50)

7.45pm: Rushed off since I was late for a mahjong game at 8.30pm at a friend’s place.

9pm: I got to my friends house and mahjong was fun! I won $20! Ha, secretly happy because it was my pocket money for the day (or week). I was initially hesitant to play as I had lost $10+ the previous few times I played, and today was pay-credit-card-bill day so I wasn’t really keen on losing any more money after spending so much at JB. Thankfully, I didn’t, and I had $20 more to pay my bills. Also, I noted that my social awkwardness wasn’t that bad this time. I was getting used to the company of my friend’s friends. :) 

11.45pm: Arrived home to my mom asking me to eat the bee hoon she cooked (read: the literal only thing she knows how to cook and has cooked thrice in the past month after it received praise from our relatives during Chinese New Year). She was so excited to let me try and insisted on asking me how it was. I told her that it was good (it honestly was) and she beamed with pride. I took a quick shower and promptly collapsed on my bed, beat from a full day of activity.

Daily Total: RM272.50 (SGD90.30)

Day 5 of Log, Day 84 of Unemployment

10.30am: Woke up a little later today, I guess I was really tired. Used my phone for an hour before deciding to get up and do something. I dressed up in my activewear intending to go to the gym.

11.12am: The liaison messaged B and I just in time to let us know our recordings passed the quality check and that we could proceed to record the remaining audio. This gave B a reason to come over, so I changed out of my activewear and prepared lunch. Gym plan foiled, but it’s okay, I was intending to exercise with another friend at night anyway.

2.32pm: B came and we started editing our scripts for the recording after. We were being paid $34/h for 6 hours of recording, but the work that goes into it isn’t just the recording alone and probably extends our work done to about 10 hours. This cuts our hourly rate by almost half… but then again, beggars can’t be choosers.

3.58pm: I went upstairs and we recorded our first run. We were doing fine until B faced her trigger point— she couldn’t take the lengthy part of our script that goes “B for Belgium, A for Argentina, B for Belgium, Y for York…” It was to confirm the email address that read “babykidston@gmail.com”, owned by a fake character, Cath Kidston. She lasted about 7 letters in and burst out laughing. I laughed too. Damn you, B.

4.08pm: Recording #2: We found the mute button on the recording platform and realised we could mute whenever we found the other person’s dialogue funny. This helped a lot as I was giggly a few times. We were doing great for the first six minutes until a bird interrupted us. It was those crazy annoying calls that you hear in the afternoon that goes higher and higher in octave as it screams on and on. Jeez, we had to record again. Damn you, nature.

4.43pm: Recording #3: We waited for the bird to shut up before trying again. We recorded and it was a smooth run as it was the third time we were repeating the exact same script, and at a slower pace. After wasting so much time on failed recordings, we aimed to slow down and leave more pauses so we’d have to record fewer times in total. This recording was around nine minutes, and we started uploading the audio.

4.52pm: Alas, the audio couldn’t upload. Another ten minutes wasted. We were super annoyed and wanted to give up. Time to try again. Recording #4. The audio screwed up at the two-minute mark. WOW. Damn you, technology.

5.18pm: Felt extremely demoralized. Maybe we weren’t meant to do this. Maybe we should have just given up. We decided to try one last time. The final time, and if something, ANYTHING interrupts us, be it nature, tech or even ourselves, we would give up.

5.28pm: Recording #5. It was a smooth and perfect run, we managed to slow down the speech to nine and a half minutes. We uploaded it with fingers crossed… and the audio couldn’t upload. Alas, we were not meant to do this. We gave up and decided to just edit the scripts and record separately at our own homes. B left and I secretly continued being annoyed about not being able to successfully record just ONCE. How were we gonna record the 6 hours worth of audio that we needed to get paid?

6.54pm: I was about to leave the house for gym and dinner with my friend, and checked the page that I had left open in hopes that the audio would have miraculously uploaded. It did! Somehow, it worked. Hehe, wasted the whole day but at least we squeezed something out. I felt happy and told B.

8pm: I met my friend, an ex-colleague who still was still in the same company. I got iTea for $1.80. I LOVE ITEA, IT’S SO FRIGGING CHEAP. We ordered mala at Clementi, and she was impressed by the price ($7.50 per pax). $9.30

8.12pm: We went to get ice cream and waffles at Kindred Folk before heading to my house to chill. $5.90

8.27pm: She complained about how audit was getting worse and worse and she really felt like quitting. I understood her feelings completely as it was why I left. I felt like my leaving was justified as she wasn’t the only one complaining. I’ve had a few more ex-colleagues complaining about hating life, working really late and finding no meaning in their work.

8.46pm: We caught up about each others’ lives. We gossiped about other people, talked about our futures with our other halves, career dilemmas and laughed over the stupidest things.

9.21pm: I realized that every time I meet my friends, the topics always revolved around “adulting” and how we all are saddened by it. It sucks to grow into this stage of life, where all the things that never mattered suddenly become important. And nobody really teaches us how to “adult”.

1.20am: She left my place via Grab (the only good thing about audit: transport claims). We didn’t gym, as expected. But I am gonna exercise tomorrow. I think.

Daily Total: $15.20

Day 6 of Log, Day 85 of Unemployment

11am: Oops, was supposed to meet a friend to exercise or have breakfast but I overslept. Dad bought back brunch and I had fish soup bee hoon. Decided to wash my soft toys finally after two years because they were dusty and making me itch. 

1.11pm: I feel fat and angry for skipping exercise thrice. I changed and am still lying on the bed… but I will head out to the gym!!! I promise!!!!!!!!!!! 

1.45pm: I dragged myself to the gym at Junction 10 in the scorching heat for a body pump class at 2.10pm. I took the wrong bus that cost me an additional 10 minutes of traveling, and I reached the gym at 2pm to find out that the class was full. Damn it. I had to do my own workout. The gym was really full and I was too shy to do the workout my friend designed for me as it included box jumps, so I decided to follow a dumbbell-only exercise that allowed me to hide in a corner away from the crowd.

4pm: I did squats and more squats and died. I didn’t finish my workout because I was too tired and left the gym. I had to go out again during the evening for a dinner and drinks after.

6.52pm: I was late (hehe) and had a Lee Wee & Brothers chicken cutlet nasi lemak set with my friend. My friend told me about her problems with her brother and how they made up by talking things out till 3am. As she spoke, I wished my parents did the same every time they fought. $5.10

8pm: We headed over to Kreams at Tanjong Pagar and we each got a soju + beer, a fruity beer combined with a shot (or less) of soju. My friends got a large cup but as a gal who doesn’t drink, I was pretty sure I couldn’t finish the large and got a small one. Mine was strawberry-flavored but unfortunately, it tasted like cough syrup. At least there was a free flow of chips that helped to get rid of the taste. $14.20

8.11pm: We refilled the chips so many times the waitress gave up and gave us two bowls to refill and even then, we asked for refills about 8 times. We played card games, the mood was really light-hearted and we laughed a lot. It was the first time we drank together in our 10 years of friendship (normally we just go for desserts) and it was nice!

11.30pm: We took photos as per our tradition and left to catch the last train home. I was home at midnight and took a quick shower before turning in. 

Daily Total: $19.30

Day 7 of Log, Day 86 of Unemployment

8.30am: My mom woke me up to get ready for our brunch. It was my grandpa’s 81st birthday celebration and we were going to a dim sum restaurant.

10.30am: We picked my grandma and grandpa up and went to Yan Ge Restaurant. We ordered a few dishes and it was weird because there were 14 of us but every dish only had 6 pieces so we didn’t really dare to eat. The meal wasn’t paid by me but it ended up to be $190 for 14 people, which was pretty alright given that it was at a restaurant.

11.45am: After lunch, each family split ways and my family went to Ikea. My poor grandma wanted to play Rummikub/Mahjong with us but 1. My brother had exams the coming week. 2. My cousin had exams the coming week. 3. I had an interview the next day. I could see her face fall as we all told her we weren’t free, and my grandpa went to Chinatown to do his weekly walk/massage, so she would be home alone. Sorry popo, perhaps next week!

2pm: Home from Ikea, where I bought nothing. Feeling really tired and sleepy from waking up at 8.30am today and considered taking a nap, but I had to prepare for my interview. Well, it was just a phone interview but still… I hadn’t had a proper interview in ages. Even simple questions like “tell me about yourself” and “why you’re suitable for the job” would stump me because I’m just that unconfident. How do you sell yourself when you don’t even believe in yourself? Sigh. 

4.37pm: Since B and I were both home, we decided to record. We did the first scenario in one take, and then did about 5 more. B laughed during a few recordings due to our dumb names like Jade Ruby Amethyst (just to extend our recording when we read the letters out one by one) and we had to re-record about 5 times. Hopefully, our recordings get accepted because I didn’t bother checking our audio.

6.25pm: Dinner time! My mom finally cooked porridge and I went out to eat. I dropped a plate of food and the trashy Ikea plate that cost $1.90 broke into literally a hundred pieces. The shards had flown everywhere and I spent a good five minutes sweeping and vacuuming the same area. 

11.30pm: A already went for the same interview, so I prepared for it based on the questions he passed to me. It was an interview that I wanted to ace, since the questions were given to me and it was a phone interview. I typed out my answers on a document and used it as my script. 

1.32am: B realised that for the recordings, the addresses and phone numbers have to be Singaporean. Oh dear. We had numbers like 18001129999 and addresses like Wazowski Loop (yes, after Monster Inc.’s Mike). We texted our liaison to let him know we had recorded a few more and hoped for the best. I felt pretty good about recording 7 audios in a day, and I decided to get to bed and wake up early the next day to prepare for my interview.

Daily Total: $0

Grand Total: $154.35

Feature image by Sherryl Cheong

a contributor

One of many contributors, sharing their stories under the cloak of anonymity.

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